Reproductive rights activism: kicking the semester off at UNC Asheville!

by Kelli Early, 2017-2018 Campus Leader at UNC Asheville

Kelli Sept blogThe Fall semester has started at UNC Asheville, and with it comes all the possibilities for my second year as a NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Campus Organizer.  I was unable to hold any formal events for September due to sickness and attending the Advocates for Youth Urban Retreat; however, Urban Retreat gave me so much great information that I want to utilize through trainings on campus!  For example, one session was on “Trauma Informed Care” which I think would be amazing to do at UNC Asheville where so many students are organizing around racial/economic inequity that can retraumatize people who are experiencing these oppressions.  Additionally, there was a great “Reproductive Justice 101” that clearly defined the differences between reproductive justice, rights, and health work and how those differences should affect organizing strategies.  Furthermore, I got to meet Becki, the UNCW Campus Organizer for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, and she gave me great ideas for the semester, including showing the documentary No Más BebésFor the “Be Bold End Hyde” campaign, I did a closed screening of Care in Chaos for the UNCA Planned Parenthood Generation Action organization, which had 7 people attend.  I facilitated a discussion about the relationship between clinics and police in Charlotte and got the group to brainstorm some creative resistance to mass protests outside of clinics, since our Asheville Planned Parenthood clinic also experiences protests.  For the September 28th International Safe Abortion Day, I tabled outside of our cafeteria to give information on the limited access to abortion worldwide and got over 40 petition signatures for the “Be Bold, End Hyde” campaign.

At the beginning of the semester, I met with several student organizations, UNCA Out and Planned Parenthood Generation Action, to discuss the current climate of student organizing on campus.  From these meetings, I learned that UNCA has so many student organizations outside of UNCA Out that focus on queer/LGBTQIA+ issues and that bringing together the issues of reproductive rights and queer liberation were highly sought after.  Thus, for October, I’ll be working with the UNCA Out and the Trans Student Union to hold an abortion speakout that focuses on queer/People of Color stories that are on my campus and community!

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Our student leader at Davidson College supports International Safe Abortion Day!

by Kristen Sands, 2017-2018 Campus Leader at Davidson College

Hello from Davidson, North Carolina! My name is Kristen Sands and I am the campus leader for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina here at Davidson College, a liberal arts Davidson ISAD 2017 1college of around 2,000 students. I had an excellent day tabling for NARAL outside of our main academic building on September 28th in honor of International Safe Abortion Day!

For our tabling event, I was able to work with the two fabulous campus representatives for Planned Parenthood Generation Action, Caroline Roddey and Emma Granowsky. We joined forces, combined swag and informational pamphlets, and prepped with coffee and doughnut munchkins to offer students on their way to class! We were very grateful to have the support of a number of other pro-choice student activists who took turns running the table when we had class.

Throughout the day, we received great feedback from students and faculty members who stopped by to chat with us and learn more about reproductive justice. A number of students told us that they didn’t know that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime, and that understanding the reality of the numbers really made them want to getDavidson ISAD 2017 5 involved in pro-choice activism. Students also really enjoyed the #BustTheMyths handout, with many of them remarking on the statistic that 95 percent of women who have had abortions ultimately feel they have made the right decision. My Planned Parenthood representative friends provided an excellent handout on tough conversations and how to navigate a conversation with someone who is anti-choice, which was popular amongst students as well. Students and faculty members who stopped by our table expressed gratitude that there was visible and open conversation about abortion happening on our campus and an excitement to get involved with our movement. Just hours after we packed up the table for the day, I was happy to see NARAL and 1 in 3 campaign stickers on laptops and water bottles and buttons clipped to backpacks.

Davidson ISAD 2017 4

I was absolutely thrilled by the number of people eager to learn more about reproductive justice and find how they can contribute to the pro-choice movement! Seeing the engagement and enthusiasm of members of the Davidson community regarding abortion rights not only gave me one more reason to love my campus, but also gave me great confidence in the power of my generation to make real change. Thank you NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina for giving me the opportunity to celebrate International Safe Abortion Day at Davidson!Davidson ISAD 2017 2

September Update from NC State University

By Leah Block, 2016-2017 Campus Leader at NC State University

School is in full-swing and so is activism here at NC State, where we’ve already seen many pressing social justice issues arise just 7 weeks into the academic year. I have teamed up with various different student organizations to meet the intersection of human reproductive rights, civil rights, and LGTBQ liberation here on campus. We kicked off this semester with a number of events and campaigns, such as the All* Above All United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action, during which members of SAGE (Students Advocating for Gender Equality) participated in activities to push for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment, which was passed in 1976, disallows Medicaid from covering abortion care; thus preventing low-income people from receiving critical medical attention. During our campus events, we found that many students did not know what the Hyde Amendment is, let alone why it is discriminatory. This is assuring that grassroots reproductive justice activism is not only important, but necessary if the Hyde Amendment is to be repealed.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-11-57-20-amDuring the Week of Action, students had the chance to participate in activities such as a social media photo-campaign, a “Brickyard Chalking,” and a cross-campus petition collecting event. For the photo campaign, students were photographed holding signs describing why they support access to abortion care.

During the photo campaign, I had many interesting conversations with people about the Hyde Amendment. Students displayed an array of emotions upon learning what the Hyde Amendment is, such as frustration and confusion. In fact, I interacted with a few individuals who identify as “pro-life,” but did not see how the Hyde Amendment could possibly be constitutional given that it disproportionately affects minorities and poor women. I had similar interactions during the petition-collecting event, though the vast majority of interactions were positive.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-11-58-26-amMy favorite event of this month was the Brickyard Chalking for Choice event, during which members of SAGE and GLBTCA (The GLBT Community Alliance) teamed up to chalk campus with pro-choice and anti-Hyde messages. Students gathered at “The Brickyard,” which is a central point on campus for activism events, well after dark to begin chalking. With pump-up music playing from a portable speaker, students began to spread– or chalk– the message that the Hyde Amendment must go. Participants used the hashtags “BeBoldEndHyde” and “1in3” to highlight that one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, and that the Hyde Amendment is an unnecessary hurdle to necessary abortion services.

September saw many significant events involving violence, such as the police-involved murder of Keith Lamont Scott; the administrative mishandling of a sexual assault case at UNC-Chapel Hill; and the circulation of a student’s racist messages on social media. Across NCSU’s campus, student leaders and activists strained themselves to meet their organizing goals.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-11-59-19-amThese students, such as those who organized the die-in at NC State on September 23, were losing sleep and missing meals in order to organize. During challenging times like these, it is imperative that we treat self-care as a top priority. When engaging in any form of activism, individuals are often choosing to risk psychological and even physical harm simply by standing for something. As an example, clinic escorts risk being berated, stalked, or even physically assaulted by simply defending a person’s right to choose an abortion. Needless to say, activists should treat themselves with care and compassion during periods of challenge; looking out for their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. In order to encourage student leaders to take care of themselves this September, SAGE held a self-care night in the Talley Student Union, open to all students. The meeting included a 5-minute guided meditation, chamomile tea, and lots of therapeutic coloring! It was a great way to wrap up the month, and I am excited for what October holds.

September Update from Guilford College

By Bex Hyman, 2016-2017 Campus Leader at Guilford College

img_9722My name is Bex Hyman and I am one of the newest Campus Leaders for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina!

Nuzzled in Greensboro, North Carolina is the small, Quaker, liberal arts school of Guilford College. Guilford College is a home and a community I am honored to have been a part of for three years now.

As well as being a Campus Leader for NARAL Pro-Choice NC, I am also an overly enthusiastic member of the Guilford College Peer Mentor Program, an off centered cross-stitch creator, a lumpy hand built ceramic pot aficionado, wild clay harvester, and struggling cook in the art of zoodles.

As I embark on the adventure that is my senior year of college as a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Sociology double major, I challenge myself to honor and give back to the college that has aided me on a journey to find and explore my passions.

As a Quaker based institution, Guilford College is guided by the seven core values of community, diversity, equality, excellence, integrity, justice and stewardship. As an ode to both myself and to an institution that has helped to craft me into a free thinker, an active member of my community, a speaker and a listener, an advocate and a leader; I accepted the opportunity to become a Campus Leader for NARAL Pro-Choice NC for the 2016-2017 academic year.

A week ago, I was eagerly awaiting the beginning of my first event on campus. A twang of nerves hit me once my table was set up.

“What if I mess this up?”

“What if I don’t actually know what I am talking about?”

“What if I offend somebody?”

Doubts began to fill my mind. I rarely feel nervous in my Guilford College community, but when I am challenged to be an “expert” on a topic, I begin to question my own knowledge. I feel as if I must have all of the answers to even begin to claim that I have a voice worthy enough to share this information.

These doubts were silenced within minutes of talking with students I had collaborated with during my college career. People were excited and enthusiastic about the work I was doing. They asked questions, and I felt as if I could reply with answers of substance. I am by no means an expert, but I also didn’t claim to be. If I didn’t have an answer, I didn’t pretend to. Instead, I found a reference online that would have an informative answer.

 

Honestly, I didn’t really expect people to engage with me very much at all. This was shown by originally printing out enough All* Above All petition sheets for 40 people to sign in support of repealing the Hyde Amendment. Forty people during a Guilford College lunch rush seemed ambitious to me considering the Guilford College student body is around 1,500 people and the questionable lasagna was on the menu for that day.

About two and a half hours later, I had collected 109 signatures, covered every petition sheet front and back, heard stories from numerous women of their experience with Medicaid and/or abortion, handed out plenty of informational flyers and was left wiped out of buttons, brownies, pins, temporary tattoos (a personal favorite), condoms, and nail art stickers.

I walked away from the event feeling accomplished and energized by my college community. While I was not expecting push back from the community, I was not truly expecting to be embraced and celebrated. It became ever more apparent to me that talking about abortion, talking about reproductive justice, and talking about inclusive sex education is upholding and, in my opinion, honoring the Quaker core values that Guilford College prides itself on. The collaboration of NARAL Pro-Choice NC and universities and colleges across the state is helping to break down stigma and open safer spaces for people to share their stories and reach for resources when they need them.

I look forward to continuing my work with NARAL Pro-Choice NC in collaboration with the Guilford College community. With this part of the semester coming to a close, I feel I am better equipped to take on this next half with force. I am eager, engaged and my confidence is growing. I will be writing an op-ed for a local Greensboro Newspaper on the Hyde Amendment, I plan on hosting a movie screening, and making a zine as a statewide resource for students on college campuses.

This internship is pushing me outside of my comfort zone, pushing me to interact with new people, and pushing me to grow. This is hands on learning at its finest and this is, truly, invigorating.

Updates on campus organizing at Guilford College and the mastering of zoodle creation coming at you all year long!

Until next time,

Bex Hyman

Q&A With Alan Hamm, Pro-Choice Chaplain and Crisis Counselor

Alan Hamm, M. Div., has spent the past decade or so as a chaplain and crisis counselor.  He has worked as a counselor at a hospital trauma center and a rape crisis center.  He can be reached at alanthechaplain@gmail.com.
Q: So, Alan, you are a chaplain/crisis counselor and pro-choice.  How did you come to that stance?
A:  Frankly, my experiences as a counselor with women in the settings of the hospital and the rape crisis center were what helped me to understand that abortion is a necessity in many cases and that abortion rights should be protected in the U.S.  When you hear the stories of women who do not want to bear their rapists’ children or young girls (as young as 10!) who were molested by their father, grandfather or uncle and impregnated by them, you understand that these women need to have the choice to do what is necessary to live their lives as trauma-free as possible.
Q:  Have you ever met with someone who regretted an abortion?
A:  Oh, sure, but I have also met with women who regretted not having an abortion.  I can’t get into specifics due to confidentiality but I remember meeting with a woman who could not bear to look at her growing son because every day he looked more and more like her rapist.  She was disgusted by him but felt guilty for being so disgusted.  It is a choice not to be taken lightly but I think that there should be a choice so that women do not have to face these impossible situations and feel like they are being forced into a particular decision by society.
Q: How does your faith inform your belief in the right to have an abortion?

A:  Abortion is a complex issue and should be treated as such.  I have grappled with this issue theologically and philosophically as have so many others.  Ultimately, it is compassion that informs my belief in the right to choose because abortion is often a necessity.  None of the doctors, nurses or patients I met who were involved in these procedures made their decisions lightly and all were up front about the risks and benefits of abortion and supported their patients no matter what choice was made.  I think as a society we wish that we could live in a world where everything has an easy answer and you just have to be on the “good” side to live a godly life.  The reality, however, is that life is full of difficult choices and a lot of gray zones where we use our minds and hearts to navigate through these troublesome issues.  I’m certain that the Supreme Court justices involved in Roe V. Wade gave the matter careful consideration and, informed by their ethics and their faiths, made the decision to legalize abortion

Q:  Many anti-choice people cite religion as a reason to restrict abortion access or make it illegal; how would you respond to that?

I respond the same way that I respond when people try to curtail the rights of anyone because of their belief system which is that I encourage them to look at the issue through a different lens.  It is easy to condemn someone when we don’t know their struggles and the difficulties they have had to endure.  It is easy for those not faced with these tough decisions to simplify matters to “black or white” theology.  Even the staunchest anti-choice people I have met would agree to an abortion if a pregnant woman’s life is endangered.  It is a difficult choice but a necessary choice, just as any of the choices regarding having an abortion.

Q: How do you think your counseling has impacted or helped women who are considering or have had an abortion?

I hope it has helped.  My goal is to let people know that God (in whatever way they relate to God) loves them and that they are not alone in this.  I do this because I know there are going to be those that judge them for the choice they made or will tell them they are going to hell or that this was all their fault.  This is not how I chose to counsel, because one of the main tenets of Christianity is to be non-judgmental and Jesus, according to the Gospels, got in trouble specifically because he fraternized with people who others were judging as “less-than”.